I’m sure that if you asked Kevin VanDam to name the single most important fish of his B.A.S.S. career, he’d have a hard time nailing it down. He might not even try, but if he did he’d probably give a wise answer like “There is no single most important fish. Every one is equally critical.” Or perhaps “The next one I catch.”
Remember, this is not a guy who fishes for single fish. He doesn’t really fish for limits either. The man is obsessed with finding schools of big-as-tuna bass. Strike that – he’s obsessed with finding schools of them and then replicating that pattern around the lake.
I’m sure if you asked Ken Duke, he could tell you the exact number of bass that KVD has weighed in over the course of his career, their average weight, their full DNA sequence and other critical information that falls into the category of….facts. I can’t do that, or rather won’t take the time to do that. I’m a big picture guy. What Ken does is incredible, and I wish someone had started it years earlier, but I can’t replicate it. What I can do, though, is tell you about the trends I see in performances on tour and in the overall general mental state of the men who try to make a living out there.
So for me, the observer of the sport, it’s easy to tell you about KVD’s most important fish.
Of course it came during a win – he’s earned an even 20 of them with B.A.S.S. – so it’s not like he’s a one-hit wonder who can think of the single fish that put him over the top in a career-defining. KVD’s most important fish came during his victory in the 2005 Elite 50 event on Lake Lewisville in Texas and it weighed a then-lake-record 11 pounds, 13 ounces. The size mattered because not only would any fisherman give his last crankbait to catch one that big in a tournament, but also because nobody – except King Kong KVD, it seems – just shows up at a lake and catches records.
Look at it this way: you’ve been fishing Lewisville for 20 years and you’re pretty proud of the 9-pounder you caught a few years back (not on tournament day, of course) and all of a sudden this skinny dude from Michigan of all places shows up and on Day One catches bassquatch. You’re humbled, perhaps even emasculated, but now you know what everyone on tour feels like because he’s been doing this week in, week out to them ever since he was an evenskinnier kid.
If you’re a tour pro and your spirit wasn’t already crushed, that might’ve been the finishing blow.
Remember, he wasn’t the KVD we know today back then, at least not on his resume. He’d “only” won a single Classic. Star? Yes. Greatest of all time? Jury was still out.